March 6, 2019

On the Stages of PM Value Recognition

I’ve started thinking about the stages of PM value recognition among crypto projects. These are the phases as I’ve experienced them, in ascending order.

PM Value Recognition Stages

Stage 0 - We don’t need a PM.

This stage is somewhat self-explanatory. The team doesn’t think they need a PM for one reason or another. For example, the team may be small and/or the project is new. The small team may be shipping or the project is new and there’s no expectation to ship yet.

Stage 1 - We might need a PM.

The team’s getting bigger now. Workflow feels inefficient. People don’t know what they should be working on when. Frustration’s building within the team.

Stage 2 - One of our developers can do PM work part-time.

This is a common trap. It results from underestimating the time it takes to do PM work well.

Developers and PM’s usually have complementary, yet different skill sets. Also, it’s hard to for a heads-down developer to take a holistic view project view PM’s need.

Stage 3 - Ok, the developer splitting time didn’t work, I guess we need a PM.

The Stage 2 becomes clear. Some projects explain this as PMs being useless, rather than recognizing split-responsibility didn’t work. Those that realize a developer-as-PM didn’t work, yet still feel the pain described in Stage 2, start looking for a dedicated PM.

Stage 4 - Now we have a PM.

Ok, the PM’s here. Now what?

Are we sure we need them? Won’t they just get in the way? Well, let’s give it a shot.

Stage 5 - The PM’s making our lives harder.

PM’s ask questions and impose structure. This requires a team to slow down a step or two and adapt to a different workflow.

An effective PM knows how to minimize the impact, yet change always takes work and can feel disruptive.

Stage 6.- The PM’s making our lives easier.

You only get here with effective PM’s. Hopefully and eventually, the effective PM increases efficiency while reducing distraction. Done well, the team should experience their lives as at least a little bit easier and satisfying.

Then what?

It depends on the team? Hopefully the team recognizes and even shows a bit of appreciation for the PM’s work.

This doesn’t always happen though, since the most effective PM work tends to become invisible. This can lead to a team minimizing the PM’s role.

They may look back on their success and feel they could have done it themselves, without the PM in the first place. This resets the cycle to Phase 0 and is a topic I’ll explore in a future issue.

P.S. - This post was first published in my free Blockchain PM newsletter.